Deliveries of wind turbine parts to Kahuku are on schedule despite efforts by demonstrators to delay the work, according to the developer of the controversial project.
AES Corp. said Wednesday that it had the smoothest transportation run so far from Kalaeloa Harbor to Kahuku during the wee hours of Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, its fourth delivery.
“Progressively, each day it’s getting more efficient and shorter (in duration) from a logistics standpoint,” Mark Miller, chief operating officer of US Generation for Virginia-based AES, said in an interview.
Miller also said that 15 of 88 wind turbine parts have been delivered so far to the Na Pua Makani project site from Kalaeloa, and that assembly work on the first of eight turbines to tower 568 feet high began Saturday.
The company, which is permitted by the state Department of Transportation to move equipment from Sunday nights through Friday mornings between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m., expects deliveries will last until Nov. 26.
Four trucks pulling long trailers carrying turbine parts arrived in Kahuku at about 2:45 a.m. Wednesday.
That compared with about 4 a.m. on Monday and Tuesday. The first delivery day, Friday morning, was beset by longer delays because a utility pole was cut down and blocked Kamehameha Highway near Sunset Beach.
The pole with electric lines was cut down with a chainsaw, according to the Honolulu Police Department. It took nearly five hours to clear the obstruction, and the road was reopened at about 7:30 a.m. that day.
Quicker deliveries also are the result of fewer protesters being arrested in Kalaeloa and Kahuku for blocking the trucks. There were 55 arrested on the first day, 40 on the second day and six in each of the past two days.
Opponents of the wind farm have vowed to continue efforts to stop the project that they maintain will harm the community.
“The plan is to hold them back as much as we can,” Alfred Medeiros, a Manoa resident originally from Waianae, said Monday night in Kalaeloa while participating in the demonstration.
Isaac Silva of Kahuku urged more people to participate. “We need more people on the front lines,” he said Monday night, when just three people were arrested in Kalaeloa.
Silva’s wife, Rachel Kekaula, 36, was one of three arrested Monday night, and Silva noted that it took 27 minutes to arrest his wife and two others.
Protesters in Kalaeloa have been using more elaborate civil disobedience tactics, including binding themselves together in groups using duct tape, PVC pipe and zip ties. One man also chained himself to a gate. In Kahuku, people arrested have sat in front of a fenced driveway to the project site.
About 240 HPD officers each day have been carrying out duties related to ensuring safe passage of the vehicles on public roads. Of those officers, AES is paying for a crew of 15 to 20 for special duty escort service.
On Wednesday, two people were arrested in Kahuku after four arrests in Kalaeloa hours earlier.
Kananiloaanuenue Ponciano, president of wind farm opposition group Ku Kia‘i Kahuku, said Wednesday morning that demonstrators are still holding strong.
“This is for the keiki, the kupuna and the community,” she said.
Since wind turbine deliveries began, there have been no meetings between AES and Ku Kia‘i Kahuku representatives. Miller said the company has discussed its project at several community meetings before and still welcomes communication with community members.
Na Pua Makani has been in the works for about a decade, and AES is the third company to take over what would be the second wind farm in Kahuku and the third on the North Shore.
Some Kahuku residents support Na Pua Makani, which has committed to contribute $4.5 million in community benefits that include $2 million for a community organization and $2.5 million toward a recreation center for which AES said it will also contribute up to another $1.5 million to match an equal amount raised by the community.
But many area residents say the proximity of the turbines — 0.3 mile from the nearest homes and Kahuku Elementary School, and 0.1 mile from farms where people live — is too close and that turbines cause health problems including migraines, nausea and other physiological symptoms resulting from constant noises and shadows from the spinning blades.
Opponents of the project also say it’s wrong to allow the project to incidentally kill Hawaiian hoary bats under a state permit.
AES said its wind turbines produce noise about as loud as “light traffic” for the closest population and will have no ill health effects. The company also said it will mitigate bat deaths by improving bat habitat, and that it has obtained all regulatory approvals after numerous public meetings and legal challenges.
The 25-megawatt wind farm, which can produce enough energy to power about 15,000 homes at about the same cost as oil-fired power while helping the state reach its goal for 100% renewable energy by 2045, is scheduled to start operating next year.